Coming off a 2-1 loss to Montreal, which ended a 10 game point streak for the Toronto Maple Leafs, they look to regroup and start another streak tonight against the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa handed the Leafs their first loss of the season back in January, when they went down 5-3 with a shaky Frederik Andersen in net. However, their next matchup the following night ended with a Leafs win in front of a strong Jack Campbell. With Campbell still out injured and not likely to return in this Toronto – Ottawa series, Andersen will have to stand stronger in net than his first meeting with the Sens.
Jack Campbell is still more than a week from returning to the #leafs lineup, per Sheldon Keefe.
They’ve got a back-to-back Wednesday/Thursday vs. Ottawa.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 15, 2021
Toronto also made some transactional moves ahead of tonight’s game, sending Alexander Barabanov, Nic Petan, and Travis Boyd to the taxi squad, while adding Scott Sabourin to the roster. This is likely due to the one and only Jumbo Joe Thornton coming off injured reserve and back into the lineup tonight:
Sheldon Keefe said Joe Thornton will play tonight, knocking Nic Petan from the lineup.
Everything else remains the same, so Scott Sabourin will not be in tonight.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 15, 2021
With these moves in mind, the Leafs look to take the win tonight. And while that theoretically should be easy against a struggling Senators team, don’t discount the power of the trap game. The Sens, meanwhile, are coming off one of three wins this season, a 2-1 outing against the Jets. And though (we cross our fingers to avoid jinxing as we say) the Senators have yet to win two in a row this season, anything is possible in hockey. The matchups between these two teams tend to get a bit frisky, and the last time the Leafs played a Tkachuk there was drama, so this should be a fun series!
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs player to watch: Joe Thornton
Coming fresh off IR and slotting back into the lineup aside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, tonight’s Leafs player to watch is Jumbo himself. While he only has 1 goal and 1 assist in the 5 games he played early this season, Thornton brings a much needed veteran presence to the top line, as well as some grittiness and intimidation on the ice. Look for him to come in flying, like he’s got something to prove after so much time off the ice. Jumbo’s energy on the ice is palpable, as his legendary celebratory hugs inject some calmness and encouragement to his younger teammates. The team, and fans, will be happy to have him back.
Senators player to watch: Brady Tkachuk
Definitely keep your eyes on Brady Tkachuk tonight. As the Senators lead scorer he’s the one to watch for Andersen and the Leafs defense. He’s also not afraid to throw his weight around on the ice, and his physicality sometimes stymies the Leafs less physical forwards a bit. Tkachuk will be looking to create an early lead for his team to sustain, so it’ll be important for the Leafs defense and Andersen to be calm and solid from the start.
Leafs starting goalie: Frederik Andersen
Since his loss to the Senators in the season’s second game, Freddie has been much more solid in net. He’s helped keep the team in games where they went down by a goal or two early on, allowing them to push back and pull off wins. Even in last game’s loss, Freddie was pretty much a wall for the vast majority of the game, and it was the Leafs inability to hit the net that was the deciding factor. He has dragged his save percentage back up to match last season’s .909, and if he continues to play as he has been that’s likely only to climb. He’ll definitely be looking to redeem himself after losing to the division’s worst team, and with a little help from the Leafs offense he can hopefully pull it off.
Senators starting goalie: Marcus Hogberg
Marcus Hogberg makes his season debut against the Leafs tonight, relieving Matt Murray of some of his goaltending load. He shined in Saturday’s games against the Jets, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a .968 save percentage, but he has otherwise struggled this season, with an overall .859. However, the Leafs of the past have a tendency to get goalied by surprising netminders, so they’ll need to maintain their offensive heat against him and not get lax. He’s coming off a win, and his confidence is likely high. Nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to goalies, so keep an on Hogberg tonight.